Retention and disclosure of police caution data infringe Article 8 – Charles Bourne

M.M. v United Kingdom (Application no. 24029/07) – read judgment

The European Court of Human Rights yesterday handed down a Chamber judgment in declaring that the arrangements for the indefinite retention of data relating to a person’s caution in a criminal matter and for the disclosure of such data in criminal record checks infringe Article 8 of the ECHR.

Although the Court recognised that there might be a need for a comprehensive record of data relating to criminal matters, the indiscriminate and open-ended collection of criminal record data was unlikely to comply with Article 8 in the absence of clear and detailed statutory regulations clarifying the safeguards applicable and governing the use and disposal of such data, particularly bearing in mind the amount and sensitivity of the data.

The case arose from a family dispute in Northern Ireland in the course of which the applicant, a grandmother, took her grandson away from his parents for two days before returning him unharmed. This resulted in her receiving a caution for child abduction in November 2000. In 2003 the police advised her that her caution would remain on record for only five years, i.e. until 2005. However, following the Soham murders and the Bichard report, there was a change of policy whereby any convictions and cautions where the victim was a child would be kept on record for the offender’s lifetime.  Continue reading